The Elders

Guest blog

We can eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020

“Kerosene is costly, it smells bad, the light is dim, the smoke hurts the eyes. It was that or darkness.”

When her uncle bought a solar lamp, Cynaidah Mideva from Nairobi, Kenya, discovered the dangers of climate change and what can be done to halt it.

Before I worked for SunnyMoney I was not so aware of climate change or its global impact.

Mostly I thought about how much I wanted to get a job to improve my situation in life and help my family. In Kenya, 85 per cent of the population do not have access to electricity – or they can’t afford the connection fees, which are as high as $500. In the rural area where my family lives, there was no source of power. My grandmother used kerosene or firewood. Children study using a kerosene lamp. Kerosene is costly, it smells bad, the light is dim and the smoke hurts the eyes and poisons the house. It was that or darkness.

My first solar lamp

I was with my uncle who lived in Kibera town, a slum in Nairobi. He bought a solar light from a lady at a SunnyMoney kiosk selling solar products. We started using that light at my family homestead in Western Kenya. I saw what a difference it made for us to have clean light with no fumes. We stopped buying kerosene and saved that money. My uncle told me that the people selling solar lights were from an NGO, SolarAid – and I should ask them for a job. I got the email address and applied. I was finally called for an interview with SunnyMoney, a social enterprise operated by SolarAid.

When I started working at SunnyMoney, only then did I realise how solar lights can change and impact lives in villages like mine.

Now I know I have a role to play in changing the direction of climate change. Can you imagine my neighbours come to me and say “I want to be like you?”

Awareness of climate change starts within the community

At SunnyMoney we sell a range of portable solar lights and phone chargers to people in rural Kenya. I work in customer care and I’m an Agent Specialist: I answer the calls from people who hear about us from our school campaigns or from seeing us in the media. I tell people where to buy, or how to become agents. I am proud that our products are high quality and come with two-year warranty: people are cautious to buy something new until they see it for themselves and are convinced it will be good value and will last a long time.

I love hearing from customers who have bought solar lights – they tell me they are saving money every week and no longer buying kerosene. The environment in their home is safer and the air cleaner since they are free from toxic fumes and the open flame. The children study for more hours; they have improved in their education, which means they may get into better schools.

No more kerosene lamps by 2020, one solar lamp at a time

People say their lives are getting better! They are telling their friends and church members. When people see our solar lights they are often interested, but the problem remains that few people know. We have sold 290,000 lights, but there are 44 million people in Kenya. We have a long way to go for everyone to know they have a right to clean light from the sun.

My message to global leaders and responsible policy makers is: please help direct funds and resources to helping organisations like SunnyMoney reach more people in Africa. Our aim is to create a world where everyone has access to clean and safe energy. The mission of SunnyMoney and SolarAid is to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020. It can happen. We need to go to more countries and build more awareness.

Cynaidah Mideva, 25, is a solar light customer service agent at SunnyMoney in Nairobi, Kenya. SunnyMoney is a social enterprise created by the international charity SolarAid. SolarAid distributes solar lights to rural Africa through the SunnyMoney trading arm.

Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.

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